While the Toho company was already on their sixth movie in the Godzilla franchise by 1965, the Daiei Motion Picture Company decided it was their time to get into the giant monster game, as well. Noriaki Yuasa’s Gamera was the first of what would become another iconic Japanese monster franchise in the years to follow.
During the Cold War, an unknown country’s aircraft is shot down by American pilots, after refusing to identify themselves. Due to the explosion caused by the fallen craft, the legendary and forgotten about giant creature, Gamera, re-emerges from his icy fortress deep beneath the Arctic. Zoologist, Dr. Hidaka, and other world-renowned scientists must devise a plan to rid the world of the destructive creature, once and for all.
This is the first time I’ve been exposed to anything having to do with the Gamera franchise. Although Godzilla is clearly the more famous of the Japanese kaiju, I actually enjoyed this film a little more. While the few Godzilla titles I’ve watched have been overly silly and not very frightening, Gamera manages to bring terror back to the giant monster movies of the 50’s and 60’s.
The overall creature design for the character of Gamera is much more menacing than other kaiju monsters I’ve seen over the past week or so and while the idea of a giant turtle may not seem very impressive on paper, the final product created for The Giant Monster film is rather amazing. Not only does he look more terrifying than Toho’s monster, but the destruction he leaves in his wake is much more shocking, as well.
The effects for this black and white film are mostly what one would expect from a 1965 sci-fi creature feature. With that said, however, I thought all of the fire effects and explosions looked awesome. The use of real fire, as opposed to the computer generated effects from the Toho company, really brought a new level of authenticity to the monster and made it much more enjoyable to watch.
Perhaps Daiei and the filmmakers involved with this film were able to learn from their competitor’s mistakes over the previous 10 years because I really feel that Gamera: The Giant Monster is a much better film than any of the Godzilla‘s I’ve seen, thus far. If you’re a fan of these giant monster films, you definitely need to watch the first Gamera movie.
As other studios have done with their title re-releases, Mill Creek Entertainment has also re-released the Gamera films, restored in high-definition on blu-ray for the first time. You can pick this film up, along with three other Gamera titles, in a four-movie collection from Mill Creek Entertainment’s official website.
I give this film 2.5 a-bombs out of 5.